Pakistan v New Zealand, 3rd ODI, Sharjah December 14, 2014

Shehzad, Afridi quell New Zealand

Pakistan 364 for 7 (Shehzad 113, Afridi 55, Henry 3-63) beat New Zealand 217 (Williamson 46, Afridi 3-37, Sohail 3-45) by 147 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

The personality of Pakistan's batting line-up is a gripping study and the chapter that was added in Sharjah could well be a blueprint of how to build an ODI innings. The primary ingredient was a firm century from Ahmed Shehzad and it was supplemented by a stroke-filled fifty from stand-in captain Shahid Afridi as Pakistan rocketed to 364 for 7 - their third-highest total in 50-over cricket and the highest in Sharjah in 218 matches. New Zealand slipped and slid and finally succumbed for 217, beaten with almost 12 overs left.

Pakistan's batsmen were intent on warding off those loose shots that frustrate them and their fans so badly. There was a determined effort to collect singles, which hindered the bowlers' chances of building pressure. Each of the first three partnerships added more than 50 runs to the score with Shehzad being the common denominator. But whatever Pakistan do, there just has to be a see-sawing of fortunes.

Birthday boy Matt Henry took out Shehzad for 113 and Asad Shafiq the very next ball with the score on 210 in the 38th over, but Pakistan managed to circumvent those setbacks thanks to an enterprising partnership between Afridi and Haris Sohail. They added 89 runs in 46 balls and on that steam Pakistan made 125 runs in the last 10 overs.

The only period of play when New Zealand managed to threaten the target was when Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson were together. Both batsmen seemed highly conscious of not letting scoreboard pressure dictate their strokeplay and they trusted their strength - Taylor his power and Williamson his footwork - to collect their runs. But the end of their union was rather symbolic of how things had been for New Zealand all day.

Taylor, who had showed immense skill cutting from the stumps, was bowled while attempted to do so by an Afridi slider. Tom Latham, too, added to the imagery when his beloved slog sweep found deep square leg to gift Shehzad his first ODI wicket. Pakistan gambled with Sohail's part-time left-arm spin and got three wickets, including Williamson.

No batsman could reach fifty. No partnership could reach fifty. New Zealand had been run over by a stampede in the first innings and just could not recover. Afridi could not hide his smile as it became apparent that victory was only a matter of time. He barely put a foot wrong, right from the toss which he won and watched his batsmen take full advantage.

Having been ruffled by pace previously in the series, Pakistan's strategy was to take on the short ball and an easy-paced pitched helped their endeavor. They also did not need to deal with Adam Milne, the fastest of New Zealand's bowlers and also one of the more injury-prone, rested. Every batsman was keen to pull and Shehzad managed to find the middle of the bat even off the front foot. Midwicket was his most productive area and the pull, his most productive shot.

Shehzad's poise at the crease was striking, so much that at times he was able to hit a selection of his 14 boundaries without much footwork. The four he drilled through point to reach his fifty was set up by shifting his weight onto a rather stationary back foot. He showed off his balance when he ran down the pitch as well, and on one such occasion he heaved a length ball clean out of the stadium in the 20th over. Nathan McCullum, who was brought in place of Daniel Vettori, could only watch.

His constant search for singles - he found 41 of them - facilitated a strike rate just under a-run-a-ball. At times, he wanted a single where there wasn't one and did have a couple of run-out scares. On other occasions he would question his partner when they refused. It almost seemed like he would not accept anything less than a century, judging by how he stole two runs to a dab that barely went past the 30-yard circle at midwicket to move to 99. There are only three Pakistan openers - Saeed Anwar, Salman Butt and Rameez Raja - who have more hundreds than Shehzad's six.

A 63-run opening stand in 47 balls between Shehzad and Mohammad Hafeez had laid the foundation and Afridi fancied himself. Pakistan had listed him down at No. 8 at the toss, but he strode out at No. 5 ahead of the returning Umar Akmal and the red-hot Sarfraz Ahmed. Twenty-five balls of calculated carnage followed. Mis-timed belts sailed over midwicket and square leg, slices pinged to the point and cover boundaries and the straight hits were typically emphatic. By the time he skewed a catch to mid-off, he had made 55 weighty runs to keep a sensational trend alive - he had made 124 of 385 and 102 of 371 in the only two higher totals that Pakistan have made in ODIs.

New Zealand wilted so badly that only one bowler - McCullum - went at under six an over, their over-rate slumped owing to 19 extras and the ball constantly disappearing to the boundary. Their preoccupation with the ticking clock coincided with Sarfraz and Sohail Tanvir caning 22 runs off the final over bowled by Corey Anderson to put the cherry on top.

Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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